The cartoon case for public transport

After my recent similar post about walkability proved popular, I thought I’d extend the theme to another mode of transport. So I googled cartoons about public transport. Here is the story that this turned up.

In most Australian and North American cities, public transport runs a very poor second to road building in terms of levels of investment and hence we end up with a limited extent of service and infrastructure. So there were lots of cartoons that were disparaging about transit – unreliable, crowded, slow etc. I liked this one about the classic perception that after waiting at the bus stop for a while, they all turn up at once:
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Why is transit underfunded? Here is a nice cartoon critique of the narrative beloved by many politicians and bureaucrats:
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Of course, typically cost benefit analyses privilege road based outcomes by weighting time savings and the like: but even so the results often still show transit is a better outcome. A recent report made this point about Melbourne’s much discussed East-West road link the current Victorian government is so hell bent on delivering, compared to the metro system it canned.

And a typical response to funding shortfalls in transit is to raise fares, even though this makes it less attractive and usually drives down patronage. So why is this? Maybe this explains it:
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While the benefits of public transport on community health are pretty well documented (see the first point here) , they never get much of a look in to the political debate. One cartoonist seems to get it though:
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So we go on accepting enormous costs involved in dealing with obesity related health problems, rather than investing a lot less in measures like transit (and of course walkability and cycling) that would not only ease the health burden, but also give us more liveable and successful cities.

So when will the tide change? With the Federal Government in Australia determined to fund roads and not transit, it would appear that won’t be any time soon in this country. And the situation in the USA is pretty bleak too, if this graph is true:IMG_0757.JPG
It’s not a cartoon, but it came up in the google search, and tells the tale about how federal funding in the USA is so skewed to highway. The interesting thing for me was that the relative amount spent on roads was still increasing. This seems increasingly out of step with the trend away from car use.

Meanwhile, it seems that at least one cartoonist gets that no city has ever road built its way out of congestion:
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Greg Vann
November 2014

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